The Groundhog Day Saga
a Poem in Two Parts; the Slaughter and the Sequel
It is a darkly humourous, tongue-in-cheek, morality poem satirising petty politics, Freidman economics, Social Darwinism. bioengineering, environmental conflict and a surprising resolution.
The Groundhog Day Slaughter
John Warren © 2013
The Boomers swarmed this Ontario town
To wait on the Oracle just below ground.
With mobiles in ears, these laptop jokers
Keep in touch with their slick stockbrokers.
And the locals think they look quite silly
To seek the wisdom of Briarton Billy.
Some folk further south in Pennsylvania.
Thought they were first with this critter mania.
They complained most bitterly to the WTO,
“Unfair is the weather where it’s 40 below!”
The mayor and the councillors all did agree,
That Philly Lily would never concede.
Delightfully sleeping below the ground,
Peacefully bundled, safe and sound,
Lily and Billy dream away
Completely oblivious of the day.
All the folks and paparazzi gather
And crowd around the old gas tamper.
But known to none that fateful day,
A bear nearby had chosen to lay
To spend its winter in solitude,
And not expect an awakening rude;
Most certainly not to such a crowd,
So arrogant, selfish, and vexingly loud!
“Pop the cork!” The Mayor did say.
“Christen the tamper with Beaujolais!”
“A swig all round!” said a wino there.
No one heard him, and none who would care.
Right on time the clock rang noon,
“Pull the cord you lazy buffoon!”
With a sputter and a thump that made the thing jump
They lost control ’til it ran into a stump.
They dragged it back to the hole once again
And held it steady over the top of the den.
The stillness was shattered and all were agog
When the tamper backfired (thus killing the hog).
They thumped and thumped, but what was the matter?
By now all were drunk and crazy as hatters.
Then to their horror, shock and surprise,
Towering in rage before their eyes,
A monstrous, brown, mother of a beast,
Ravenous and hungry to make them a feast!
It ranted and roared like a true nature’s pet,
And lumbered and swiped at as many it could get.
The scene it was gruesome! There was none who could lose him.
The drunk passed out, as the bear stormed about.
It might have been different, it could be said,
But his life was spared, mistaken for dead.
All became still so the bear went to bed,
The tamper tamped off, the groundhog was dead.
Faint ringing of cells and beeps of computers,
Like swirling melodies of murmurs and rumours,
Their brokers were freaking and all in a panic,
The market had stalled; the World Bank was frantic!
Wall Street had suffered a horrible crash,
With cap in hand, went begging for cash.
Bubbles were popping all over the place,
Not beer, or champagne, that wasn’t the case;
And bull or bear, it mattered not which,
The playing field leveled for the poor and rich.
The poor guy came to and didn’t know what to do,
It looked like feeding time at the zoo.
“I must be delirious! This plonk is injurious.
Never again this is too deleterious.”
And he swore to God, “If I should lie,
I Cross my heart and hope to die.”
He tried a cell phone to call first the press,
Then call the Missus to tell of the mess.
She would never believe him – what a surprise,
Another of his more creative lies.
He imagines her furiously pacing the floor
Frying pan in hand behind the front door.
He tried all the phones, but they had died,
And the SUV’s door locks were computerized.
Looking around, then looking again,
Listening if the beast went back to its den.
When he knew for sure, he was free of the bear,
He staggered and stumbled out of there.
Now there you have the Groundhog Day Slaughter.
A proposal was made to change it to otter,
Perhaps to a beaver; or possibly an eagle;
Or maybe a rabbit, conceivably a beagle,
But now it’s tied up at the UN, I think,
Though no longer groundhogs because they’re extinct!
The Groundhog Day Redemption – the Sequel
Alas, this affair is not finished yet,
As Nature always wins the last bet.
We thought the groundhog had truly bought it,
No longer could merchants profit off it.
At least that’s most likely what they thought.
By the time the poor fellow got back to town,
The morning’s atrocious news got round.
The townsfolk gathered in shock and awe,
The Council and boomers, torn tooth and claw!
And to his surprise, he was soon to learn,
His Missus was wrought with deep concern.
But concern itself goes both ways,
Like the hall clock, the pendulum sways
From love to fear and back again.
Trembling with pleasure then shaking with pain,
She wrapped him up in a hug so tight,
This sudden delight had left him affright.
He had time on his hands and began to pout,
His employment insurance had just run out.
The government decided to cut his position,
Scientists were considered an imposition.
Global warming was purely plain fiction,
A computer sufficed to give the prediction.
Between his trips to look for work,
He moonlighted as a warehouse clerk.
After his dinner, he went downstairs
To his lab where he studied some pairs
Of lusty chromosomes, X and Y.
(He dabbled in genetics on the side.)
He now had lots more time to think,
No longer distracted by job and drink.
And the only thing he could recollect,
(Besides the bear), on which to reflect,
Was the groundhog lying cold and stiff
And thought to himself, “What if…? What if…?”.
One night he rose and stole unawares,
Grabbed his clothes and went downstairs,
He snatched his hat, tied his boots up tight,
Then got a spade and a small flashlight,
And made his way, ‘neath the veil of dark,
Quietly slinking to Groundhog Park.
He found the place and dug up the grave
Where the groundhog had been reverently laid.
He carefully exhumed the poor old hog
And scooped up a few “hairs of the dog”.
He filled in the grave and covered his track.
When the Missus woke, he was already back.
Sunday morning dawned cold and bright.
He said, “I didn’t get much sleep last night.
You go to church, I’m not feeling that well.
I’ll make up some soup and rest a spell.”
When she went to church, he went to his lab.
Said a voice in his head, “You must be mad.”
He had no idea, that of the two hairs,
One of them really was the old bear’s.
Even less he knew, that his little creation
Would cause such a fuss, a muss and sensation.
In any case, his theory succeeded
But needed a grant before he proceeded.
A grant, these days, is not easy to get,
But he’d do anything for his pet project.
So to a shady business he went
That still does work for the government.
“Sign here, my friend, on the dotted line.
You’re working for me, see you at nine.”
He rushed back home, a big bright bubble,
“Missus,” he cried “We’re out of trouble!”
“That’s wonderful dear, but just beware,
Some places, I’ve heard, are not always fair.”
“No problem, my dear, did I also mention,
Medical, dental and generous pension?”
Formulas were fashioned on which life depends.
They all burned the candle at both of its ends
To re-engineer a groundhog clone;
So that they … and they alone,
Could patent creations and their derivations
If they could but change the regulations.
From the fertile slime of primeval creation
(Nature had planted a subtle mutation)
A mighty stirring in the bottom of the tube;
Boiling and bubbling – a new life was brewed!
A media blackout kept all the news tightened,
It’s best that the public was left unenlightened.
The mass of cells was aberrantly growing!
By the time they knew, it was all overflowing
With mess and matter flying out of the tube;
A potent conception in so fierce a mood;
Something for sure hit the fan quite squarely
They begged to their gods quite involuntarily.
Hair grew here and there in mid-air;
An eyeball forming; a jaw somewhere,
And nasty claws on what looked like paws.
With no time to find the formula’s flaws,
A FrankenHogBear had materialised
Before their weary, horrified eyes!
Relieved they were that the clone seemed benign.
They had gotten away with it again this time,
And published the report in “Scientific Creation”.
The free market applauded with great adulation.
Wall Street again, went all doolally,
The indexes closed – a historic rally!
Headlines proclaim and bylines contend,
“GROUNDHOG DAY WILL BE HONOURED AGAIN!”
It’ll cost a bit more, but that was all right
As the owners nailed down a copyright.
In the end, all the people were happy,
But only the clone was feeling quite crappy.
The FrankenHogBear escaped one night
Deep into the woods it made its flight.
Alone and afraid it ran and ran;
Confused and abused by the hand of man.
It survived on grasses, and berries, and nuts,
And occasionally went crazy on blood and guts.
Some time went by when the story was leaked,
A report from a source who was totally freaked.
The folks who created this media sensation
Propagated, in fact, a doubtful creation.
Confirming the rumour, the beast was sighted
When the full moon and February two were united.
There were unconfirmed stories going around,
Of a far off cry, an unnatural sound.
And someone saw, allowing for distortion,
A terrible hog of monstrous proportion
Gorging on beavers, and otters and eagles,
Bulls and bears, and assorted beagles.
This murderous creation fared far and wide.
Sheer terror unhinged the countryside.
None had the nerve to go outdoors.
They locked all the windows and barred all the doors.
The Big Box stores were forced to shut down
Eventually, too, they pulled out of town.
Call it a vacuum; call it a void;
A natural law that nature employed,
Pulled the GDP six feet under.
Nothing was left to pillage and plunder
The Dollar, the Euro, Yuan and Yen
Collapsed and never to be heard of again.
Nature finally called the bet,
Wall Street gambled with all it had left.
She laid out her cards, one by one,
Wall Street was done! Nature had won!
The ‘Street’ now, just dust on the road,
Blown out and busted, distrusted and cold.
Like dominoes, they tumbled, crashed and swirled.
And the great New Kings in their great New World
On Monday, October the Sixth awoke
To see, again, the banks up in smoke.
A free market, cannibal-orgy ensued.
No one would help; they were finally screwed.
‘The One Percent’ fled into deep space
And dumped the whole mess on the human race.
But people had learned how to grow their own
On plots of land, they had hoed and sown.
The air again, was fresh and clean,
The water clear; the earth was green.
On the lonesome ship, “The Adam Smith”,
An amusing ditty, they passed time with,
“How much ground could a groundhog hog,
If a groundhog could hog ground?
A groundhog would hog all the ground around
If a groundhog could hog ground.”
They trusted wholly in manifest destiny,
Sure in their divine right to prosperity.
Return on investment was waning on earth.
Respect for the law had outlived its worth.
But without really knowing, their just reward,
The FrankenHogBear, had gotten aboard.
Meanwhile back on home sweet home
Things were stirring, but not yet known.
A next step in our evolution,
This time a peaceful revolution.
Anticipation of joy was in the air,
A coming forth was due somewhere.
On February first, the Missus said, “Spouse,
“I think we’ll be needing a larger house.
With maybe, a tree and a swing out the back
And a playhouse made out of your old shack.
We’ll be expecting a little company soon
And I think it’s time we made some room.”
“And a marvelous dream I had last night,
When the winter moon shone full and bright.
A groundhog came to let me know,
From on high, he was sent below,
To bring this message, and did say:
“The Baby is due on Groundhog Day.”
The prophecy held, the time was at hand,
With one great push, its life had began.
A mid-wife smacked it on its bum
Instead of a shriek, it chanted, ”OUMMmmm m m ~ ~ ~”
The mighty question asked, “What gives?”
“Joy to the world, the Groundhog lives!”
The Groundhog is dead. Long live the Groundhog.
The Saga Background
The earliest date I have in its publication history is 02/02/02 and at that time it was titled The Groundhog Day Slaughter Poem. A version was recorded in Feb 4th, 2007 and had an added instrumental track, The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, and was included in a CD I recorded, Trying to Keep an Open Mind. You can listen to it here.
I joined the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative in Feb 2011, which coincidentally, one traditionally celebrates Groundhog Day in that month, and presented it. With helpful critiques, I was given the choice to revise, revise, revise. They were gracious in accommodating a re-presentation a couple of weeks later. It was well received (tolerated), with a very appreciated offer to illustrate it, and I was encouraged to expand on a couple of themes in the poem to fill in some hurried gaps. The result was a rather large revision of over 2000 words (the original was around 600 words) after many drafts and I never tired deciding the usage of a semi-colon or comma!
The poem became a saga and was re-titled:
The Groundhog Day Saga: a Poem in Two Parts; the Slaughter and the Redemption
I would like to describe it as a work of creative fiction in rhyming couplets. Even so, it is a darkly humourous, tongue-in-cheek, morality poem satirising petty politics, Friedman economics, Social Darwinism. bioengineering, environmental conflict and a surprising resolution.
I have been collaborating with Melissa Felder to illustrate the whole saga and I have been encouraged to send out submission query letters to a number of Canadian publishers and some American publishers as I have had feedback that it can be appreciated from an American point of view.
I have uploaded an example of a draft illustrated page: